Three years into a national recession, California’s 2009 unemployment rate hovered near 13%. While economic downturns are inevitable, poverty in some of Alameda County’s most vulnerable neighborhoods is chronic and only worsened with the recession. Both families and the providers who serve them experienced hardships. Families’ ability to maintain housing and sufficient food became less certain. As parents and caregivers lost their jobs, fewer children filled child care slots at early care and education programs. Services for children were further imperiled when the state’s ability to fund subsidies for child care, unemployment benefits and public health insurance programs was threatened.
“Our Emergency Food Helpline provided referrals to households with a combined number of 11,854 children ages 0-5. This number represents a dramatic increase of nearly 44% compared to the same period last year….”
County Food Bank
ECE providers who already earn low wages were hit especially hard when the State budget threatened to eliminate funding for subsidized care.
48 family child care providers attended a workshop that generated ideas such as joining a food reimbursement program, better management of their books, and asking parents to contribute more to special activities as viable ways to decrease their business expenses
180 family child care providers attended an event where they received information on marketing their business during a challenging economy
F5AC provided close to $3 million in loans to six state-funded child care agencies when the state withheld funding until state budget negotiations concluded
More families received home-based supports to help stabilize their financial situations. Home visitors spent a significant amount of time connecting families with services that helped families meet basic needs. For some families, receiving referral assistance by phone offered another type of lifeline in desperate times.
Of the 1,267 of families who received home-based case management support, 85% were very low income (based on their eligibility for MediCal, Healthy Families Health Insurance, or not having any health insurance coverage). 25% struggled to maintain stable housing, and 41% experienced unemployment sometime during the year.
A dial-in information and referral phone service responded to 5,141 households with children 5 and under
“A single father of children, ages 1 and 8 years, lost his job, but was not eligible to receive unemployment [benefits]. A Resource Specialist referred him to a local family resource center and the Alameda County Food Bank to receive temporary assistance while his Food Stamp and CalWORKs applications were being processed.”
Creative solutions are needed to support families who struggle continuously to meet basic needs. F5AC funded organizations that provided families with financial coaching, referral to resources, assistance with tax preparation and tax credits, advocacy support to address inadequate housing conditions, and donated infant clothing.
64 family support providers and F5AC staff received trainings on family financial decision-making. Topics covered include ways to help families assess their saving and spending behaviors, develop a financial plan, and how to avoid predatory lending schemes and check-cashing services.
Community Grantees offered financial fitness support to over 600 children and their families
“The parents (of three small children) were extremely anxious about filing tax returns. [An error caused by the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) office resulted in] leaving two of the children without tax identification numbers….Filing taxes claiming only one child meant owing taxes when the family was entitled to a refund. The provider contacted the ITIN office and helped the family complete the necessary forms to obtain missing tax identification numbers for the two children, making the family eligible for a tax refund.”